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Respect: promoting a culture free from harassment and bullying in the APS

Please note - this is an archived publication.

Commissioner's foreword

Employers and employees have a shared obligation to create respectful and courteous workplaces. Employers want a productive workforce that manages its performance and achieves results.

Fostering a positive workplace environment makes good business sense. A positive workplace is characterised by respect that supports employee engagement and motivates everyone to do their very best. It also creates a high performance culture that encourages innovation and creativity.

Effective leaders model their organisation's values and set the tone for 'how things are done around here'. They promote the kind of culture that inspires people to achieve.

The Public Service Act 1999 (the Act) sets out the Values and Code of Conduct that apply to all APS employees. The Act highlights the responsibility of agency heads to promote and uphold the Values, and asks all employees to treat others with respect and courtesy. SES employees have a particular responsibility under section 35 of the Act to promote the Values and compliance with the Code of Conduct within their own agencies, by personal example and other appropriate means.

Employee surveys carried out for the annual State of the Service Report to Parliament show that the APS does well in providing positive workplace environments. The surveys also indicate high job satisfaction levels and awareness of the Values.

However, workplace harassment remains a challenge. The 2009-10 State of the Service Report noted that 17% of employees reported being harassed or bullied in the past 12 months. Harassment and bullying are complex issues, and difficult to measure—but on any measure, this is a disturbing finding.

We need to foster a deeper understanding of respect across the APS. We all have a responsibility to develop the human capital of the APS. This includes the responsibility to sustain a positive workplace culture.

This guide is intended to provide our people with support and strategies to develop a culture of respect. The guide sets out:

  • the benefits of building a positive work environment
  • federal legislation that relates to workplace harassment and discrimination
  • descriptions of harassment and bullying
  • guidance on what is and is not appropriate workplace behaviour
  • strategic approaches to building a respectful workplace
  • the role of leaders in promoting positive work environments
  • examples of management policies and systems that prevent and manage harassment and bullying
  • assurance mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the 'health' of an organisation.

I strongly commend this guide to all managers across the APS.

Further information about the guide may be obtained from the Ethics Advisory Service on 02 6202 3737 or at ethics [at] apsc.gov.au.

Stephen Sedgwick
Public Service Commissioner

Last reviewed: 
12 June 2018